Captured Ukrainian defenders of Mariupol ‘held in Russian-occupied part of Donetsk Oblast'

16 June, 02:09 PM
Defenders of Mariupol at the Azovstal plant (Photo:Dmytro Orest Kozatskyi/Azov regiment press service /Handout via REUTERS)

Defenders of Mariupol at the Azovstal plant (Photo:Dmytro Orest Kozatskyi/Azov regiment press service /Handout via REUTERS)

The majority of the captured Ukrainian soldiers that defended Mariupol are being held in the Russian-occupied part of Donetsk Oblast, Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council (NSDC) Oleksiy Danilov said on June 15.

“I emphasize once again: the number of Mariupol defenders held in captivity is not 100 or 200 people, it is much larger,” Danilov said on Ukrainian national television. 

“Therefore, we cannot say for sure if every single one of them is there. But we know for sure that the vast majority are in the occupied territory of Donetsk Oblast.”

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The head of the NSDC said this subject should be addressed with caution in anticipation of the implementation of PoW exchange agreements.

“Ukraine isn’t the only country that is involved in this process - there are international institutions that are helping us,” Danilov said.

 “The key thing here is not to talk too much and do accidental harm to the negotiations. We expect the existing agreements to be fulfilled and for all our boys and girls from Mariupol, who are in captivity today, to return home safe and sound. I want to say this again: the main thing here now is not to take unnecessary steps so that the Russians have a reason to accuse us of disrupting the negotiations. It’s a very delicate process.”

President Volodymyr Zelensky said on June 6 that more than 2,500 defenders of Mariupol from the Azovstal plant are in Russian captivity. According to Ukrayinska Pravda, 2,449 defenders left the territory of Azovstal, they are being held in the Russian-occupied town of Yelenovka in Donetsk Oblast.

The Ukrainian General Staff on May 16 said that the commanders of the units that were at Azovstal had been given an order from the top military leadership to save the lives of their subordinate personnel.

Prior to this, the Azov Regiment issued a statement saying that the defenders of Mariupol had complied with the order and hoped for the support of the Ukrainian people.

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said that the defenders of Mariupol complied with the order, held back a group of 20,000 Russian invaders and didn’t let them into Zaporizhzhya and further into Donetsk Oblast. Reznikov added that after that the defenders received a new order – to save their own lives.

According to Deputy Defense Minister, Hanna Malyar, there was no other way to save the heroes from Azovstal. She stressed that the operation to rescue the defenders of Mariupol will continue until they return to Ukrainian-controlled territory.

Earlier last month President Zelensky said that the defenders of Mariupol will be released during the PoW exchange procedure.

Prior to this, it was reported that about 1,000 Ukrainian defenders were at Azovstal, of whom 600 were injured, and 40 were in a critical condition. They repeatedly asked to be evacuated from the plant, and reported that the fighters were running out of food, water, medicines, and ammunition.

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